QueryLand: or Adventures in Literary Masturbation

Me, in the dark night of querying

My ordeal started on April 18th. Aside from the two queries I'd sent out a bit earlier just to get my toes wet.

As of June 14th I had a real, REAL, offer, from a Very Real Agent who has represented one of my all time favorite books. (well, all time once it was published in 2005). That said, when I got The Call, my MS was still out with 3 other agents. I know it seems fast and extremely successful, but querying, well, I don't wish it on my worst enemy. Except, since my best friends will have to go through it, in the spirit of open-mindedness I'll share my experience here.

You send your plaintive query letter into the ether and hope that you'll get any response, even if it's a rejection. Mainly there's silence, as most agency websites warn that unless there's interest you won't hear from them at all. If there's interest they'll get back to you in, oh, maybe 6-8 weeks. I received a rejection yesterday to a query I sent out on April 7th. (One of the early ones I mentioned). Each day is an eternity, you check your mail, you do your stuff, you check your mail, you do more stuff, you check your mail. And then, yes, the "I just am not passionate enough to read this. But, somebody else may have a different (wrong) opinion, so good luck."

And then! You get a request....for a full ms. YES! Finally. You read the one line over and over again, "I would be interested in reading this. Send a full manuscript."

What does interested mean? They asked for a full, not a partial! They asked! Did they get it? Did they mean it? Did they ask by mistake? Does interested mean interested with enthusiasm? Does it mean, I may think about it. If the mood strikes. Does it mean I'm interested like how I watch the nightly news,with one eye closed. What does it mean?

You send it. Then you reread it.. And realize there are tons of typos. The chapter headings/numbers are all wrong. Apropos of nothing, on page 79 one paragraph is entirely italicized. Just let it go? Write them back? Just let it go.

A week passes. Two. You send out more queries, you get a few more rejections. you send out more queries, you tweak your query letter for the 10,000th time. You read all those obnoxious posts "Oh, I queried on Tuesday, heard back on Wed, signed on Friday." You wonder what's the earliest time for a glass of wine. You walk the dog. You're happy when the sun sets cuz the agents are home, you can stop checking your email. You check your email. You know that the three requests for your ms that came trickling through the silence and rejections are languishing, unread, on some agent's (or his/her unpaid college undergrad intern's) desk (or in the case of the intern, in the pile where she puts them, somewhere in some filing room). You check your email. You send yourself an email from another account, to make sure it's still working.

But then, one agent sends a request that says, "This made me laugh, please send the full ms." I made her laugh. She said please. I love her.

And then you wait. Again.

This is a REAL agent. I resisted sending her my query for a long time, figured I wasn't in her league. But she got back to me in 2.5 weeks, told me it was "Funnier than the Rosie Project." Called in a cross between Bridgette Jones Diary and The Rosie Project. And cried at the end!!!

So do I accept her immediately (even after The Call where I fell utterly in love)? No...not yet. I'm a professional. I've been googling in between my email scans...and I let the other agents know that I've received The Offer. What are they gonna do about it?

They're gonna read, ASAP, they assure me. The new thing I've learned is that they may even provide me with feedback, even if they're not offering. And who knows, maybe, just maybe, they'll come back with something as good as what I've got. Though I doubt it, coz whoever liked me first...well, I've got some sense of gratitude and loyalty.

Update: June 21 and I have an agent and I couldn't be happier! Thank you Catherine Drayton at Inkwell Management!

Me, after I signed with Catherine!

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